January 16th

I went running today. I just felt it. I’m tempted to put “running” in quotes because I don’t go for very far or for very long. But I’m thankful to have run because there was a time when I wasn’t sure if I’d run again, and now I can’t even remember why. I think it was an ankle problem. My ankle hurt, and so I didn’t run but walked instead. Then one day suddenly my ankle didn’t hurt anymore and I found myself running again. Thank God. I’m truly thankful to be able to run. Not far, but enough to get my heart rate up. I ran on a trail that goes through the woods. I avoid the pavement and like running on the soft pine needles. There were people out. A person — maybe a couple — in a hammock. People walking dogs. People watching children. Another couple sitting, and the man kept trying to put his head on the woman’s shoulder, and she kept moving her body so that his head couldn’t rest there. She liked him, I could tell, but didn’t want his head on her shoulder. A homeless man was lying a bench with his coat over his face.

I was listening to Aerosmith. Hm. If you’re judging me for listening to Aerosmith, it’s ok. I’m judging myself also. I downloaded a playlist of “80s” (in quotes because not every song on the list is from the 80s) music and there was Aerosmith on there, so I listened to it. It had been awhile since I listened to any Aerosmith. I was surprised to find what sounded like a piccolo trumpet at the end of “Love in an Elevator.” Surely a Beatles influence. A piccolo trumpet is what you hear in the middle and at the end of “Penny Lane.” The Beatles had been searching for an instrument to play an instrumental part on Penny Lane but hadn’t found what they wanted. Paul McCartney saw trumpeter David Mason playing Bach (I think it was the Brandendburg Concerto) on TV and got producer George Martin to call the man. They invited him to come to Abbey Road the very next day, which he did. Paul sang the part he wanted to Producer George Martin, who notated the part and gave it to the trumpet player to play. Reading that story is how I know what a piccolo trumpet is. I know a lot of Beatles trivia. Anyway, it’s not hard to imagine that Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is a Beatles fan.

It would have been a good day to listen to Penny Lane. The sun was out. Spring isn’t far away.

Gallery

January 15th

This is a tree on the golf course by my parents’ house. I come here to meditate and pray. It’s good, meditation and prayer is, for what ails you. A woman walking her dog came by and said hello; It was getting dark so I could barely see her. I said hello back. I prayed and meditated for 10 minutes, which is how long the session on the app (yes I use an app) is, then a different woman came by, and it was dark by this point, so I could see even less. I said “hello, again” before realizing it was a different woman. She didn’t say anything back. I suppose this might be “my spot.” My spot to come to pray and meditate. A friend told me she had read a book on Christian meditation in which the mantra you say is “Maranatha” or “Lord Come.” Sometimes that’s what I say when I meditate; other times I have a prayer I’ve adapted from AA, in which I ask God to remove various defects and replace them with virtues. It helps. It really helps. I went to an AA meeting today. It was good. Packed room. I sat next to a guy who tried to rob a liquor store and did 5 years in prison. I felt. Well, compassion, and also, only 5 years? It seemed light. And also that, as many bad choices as I might have made, that’s one I never did, and I wonder how desperate you’d have to be to make that choice. But I’m glad he is making better choices now, and I’m glad there is redemption for him, and I hope peace. it feels a little wrong to share his story, but since I haven’t given any identifying information about him, I think it’s ok. Thanks for reading, everything’s going to be ok I think. Love, JH

January 14

Remember the woods of our youth.

You ran you had a friend.

Secret places.

Rocks. A rusty swingset. You swang on the swing.

Past become present. Back and forth

Your sister sang something. “Casey jr’s back casey jrs back.”

Exhiliration. She showed you the way to so many things.

The woods contained. Seclusion mystery, possibility. Safety, possibility.

My friend and I were space cowboys like Han solo and luke skywalker. We went to a cantina. My friend had a Shirley Temple. I had never had one, [in fact I had my first Shirley Temple only a few weeks ago and it was darn good]. We didn’t care who was whom. Now I know Han was cooler. Less whiney, in the movies.

Though I think I’d like Mark Hamill better in real life. More [ironically] down to earth. Feet on the ground. Very approachable, for a star.

It’s still there. The mystery, in the woods. Though it’s elusive and you can’t force it and it’s not like it was when you were a child. The mystery, the wonder will come to you if you seek it out.

Some days it’s barely attainable. Some days it’s not attainable at all. The mystery in the woods is like the mystery in writing. Like good writing. Some days the good writing doesn’t come, or comes very very slowly.

I told you about my cold locomotive sitting in the desolate railyard.

That’s my image [if I may ruin the mystery] for my own immobilized creativity.

The locomotive wants to be chuffing and pumping and hissing with steam and noise and thunder and velocity: roaring down the track to where it’s supposed to go. But.

It’s sitting in the desolate railyard. Heavy. Weighty, man. Locomotives are so heavy. Iron Horse. Maybe it’s rusting, vines through the cowcatcher.

I have to get it moving. It’s my project. To get it fired up and hoisted to the track and cleaned up and loved on and doted on and manned and oiled up and full of coal and whatever else you need.

I’lll get there, it will get there.

Anyway, creatvity. The mystery and wonder in the woods. You can’t chase it. It won’t come to you faster if you run after it, except it will. I’m wrong about that. It *will* come faster if you chase it. You *must* chase it. You have to wait for it too though. Like God, also.

Gallery

January 13

Sundays are becoming my busiest day so I think I’ll place a moratorium on having to write much, if anything, on Sundays. I’ll post a photo instead. I took this the other day at Umstead State Park which lies to the west of Raleigh. I love walking in the woods.

January 12

Vain, I’m fatter than I want to be.

I raked leaves with my father today. They were wet underneath with all the rain of December and some of the rain of January. They were dry on top.

We raked them into a blanket which I bought at the nearly new store for 3.99. (That day, I bought the blanket and a filing cabinet, and I played a bunch of pianos, all of which were badly out of tune).

And put them into a wheelbarrow and wheeled them to the woods and lifted the woods so the leaves fell into the woods.

We took turns raking, pushing the wheelbarrow, and pausing to lean on the rake and look into the middle distance at the road and the neighbor stealing gravel from the road to put in her yard.

We tried not to get too much gravel on the blanket, because it was heavy enough, with all the wet leaves.

I caught a whiff of the smell of the leaves, and it was a good smell that reminded me of past Autumns, even though this is January. It reminded me of my Father and my sister and raking leaves into a pile and jumping into it.

We were finished before long, and my father and I went to the Rock store to buy a flagstone or two, for the top of the sidewalk where it meets the road.

The Rock store is usually open til 3, but today it closed at 12. Winter Hours.

My father had heard of a different rock store that someone told him about, so we went to look for it but found nothing.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and did a search but found no rock store.

So we drove to a nursery and went in and my father either asked about rocks or looked at plants, I’m not sure which.

Then we got a hot dog with onions, chili, and slaw. We split a bag of fries. The crinkle cut kind.

At the hot dog place was a couple who had never been to the hot dog place. I asked where they were from, expecting an answer like New York or CT, given their accents, which I judged to be Northeastern. They were from Pinehurst, though.

My father and I came home and I went to work on some music. My father went to get the leaf blower.

He wasn’t finished. There were more leaves to get, to blow into a pile to be raked later.

January 11th

I don’t want to write.

So with apologies to myself and forgiveness for myself

Maybe i won’t.

I won’t catalog the mundane and the malevolent, the execrable

and the sublime.

But you kind of have to catalog them. you have to be specific.

To be vague is to give you work to do. Tedious work at that.

I could tell you about the young woman and man who got into my car, and I gave them a ride.

To make them interesting you have to catalog particulars. To make an image.

Well I will tell you this. His orthodontist was his first girlfriend’s father. And he said “He knew my mouth better than she did” and it was funny and slightly off-color and slightly weird, and it feels weird to relate it here. So personal. And weird.

And I have different types of folks reading this — not too many of you — maybe 20 or so, but you are all different, and I wonder what you will think of me that I related this.

Or what you might think if I related what I really think, about this small inconsequential thing, and about bigger things which I think are consequential but might not be.

Anyway, well. There was a distance between them. A coolness, and she didn’t want there to be a coolness, but she was too cool to let it be known that she knew there was a coolness and that furthermore she didn’t like it. So she maintained the small icy chasm between them and so did he. But she wanted the chasm closed and he was fine with the chasm. And you wanted to tell her to save some time and ditch him, but of course that would have been inappropriate. “You can drop us by the mailbox,” she said with a slight icy remove, as they opened the doors to get out. So much icy remove in the car, and I was glad I wasn’t getting out with them. They didn’t tip. Few people tip, really. Least of all young people.

I’ve got my own icy remove in my own self. That cold locomotive waiting to be stoked. Sitting out in the desolate rail-yard. Gleaming in the moonlight.

Or maybe it’s a pilot light which has gone out.

Once in Brooklyn our pilot light went out in the winter and the house got very cold.

The landlady’s son, Dimitri, called me. Told me to grab a flashlight and walked me through turning the pilot light back on. It was touch and go but we got it to come on, and he cheered over the phone.

Dimitri could — can — fix anything — is an inventor and inveterate tinkerer. Fixing engines, air conditioners. A breeze-in-and-out-er. He breezed in, breezed out. He’s breezy and women like him. Everyone likes him. He called me J, which isn’t that unusual. He breezed in, cup of coffee in hand, at 2 am, said how’s it going J, breezed out. He was always driving his big Dodge Ram truck out to the Hamptons or up to the Catskills, or down to the coast of NC, as it happens.

My landlady has 4 sons, all of whom have (or had, as some of them are greying) dark wavy hair. They are Greek. They kind of look, more or less, like the actor John Cassavetes. Good-looking boys.

I occasionally got mistaken for one of them. “You one of Joanne’s boys?” “Nope, just a boarder.”

One of them has a girlfriend who used to date one of the the Ramones. Or maybe it was the bass player from Blondie. Whoops I can’t remember.

One of them is a restaurateur.

One of them works for the City Planning department, and

One of them is in finance.

Right before I moved, this last, Charles, said he’d always contemplated leaving NYC. “Good for you for having the guts to try living in different places. Maybe one day I’ll try to live somewhere else. But I can’t help staying put.”

January 10th

Today I wanted to feel different and so I set off.

I had a work meeting during which I wanted to feel different. After the meeting I met with a friend. We sat in a coffeeshop and it was too loud so we moved to a fast food restaurant which was quieter.

Not a good friend. I mean, a good friend because he’s good and he’s a friend, but not someone I know well though maybe that will change. He wasn’t hungry; I ordered a chicken salad.

It came with a big bag of dressing but I could tell the chicken was already glazed with something sweet so I didn’t use the dressing.

We chatted about something I can’t talk about so what’s the point of me telling you now? I don’t know.

A man in a wheelchair said he had some advice for a man my age, and proceeded to tell me some stock to buy. “What are you, 26? You’ll be a millionaire by the time you’re 65.” I told him I was not 26, but 46. “Ok, maybe you won’t be a millionaire, but you should still buy the stock.” I was glad, as I always am, to be mistaken for someone younger than I am, but a little annoyed to no longer be a prospective millionaire. The man lingered. He wanted to talk. He wanted to know the relationship between my friend and me, without coming right out and asking. He lingered. “Do you two go to church together? You hang out a lot?”

“We’re old friends,” I said. He said “I’m sorry for bothering you,” and wheeled off.

My friend left to go sit in the carpool lane at his son’s school. I still wanted to feel different. I went to get a haircut at a place called Great Clips. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

In Brooklyn my go-to barbershop was the East West Happy Barbershop with 2 chairs and one barber, a Bengali man named Benu. He looked a lot like the actor Enrico Colantoni. I’d see him in the neighborhood and he’d wave at me. Sometimes I’d go to get my hair cut and he’d say “I saw you the other day, walking by.” Sometimes I’d walk by and wave at him.

He only charged $10.00 for a haircut and I gave him a $5.00 tip, every time. One thing about NY is, for me it was not so expensive. In many ways the cost of living in NY was less expensive for me than the cost of living in Durham and Raleigh, NC. It was a land of $10 haircuts and $1 pints of blueberries. In fact, one of the places I’d see Benu out and about was in the fruit market. I went to the fruit market almost every single day. I ate a ton of fruit.

Here in Raleigh I eat less fruit, because it costs more. Fewer blueberries, anyway.

I still wanted to feel different so I contemplated some things and some places and some people that could make me feel different, but I ended up going to the woods and walked to the lake and looked at the lake.

There were ripples in the sun, moving to the left. I could see them through a chain link fence which had a vine growing on it. So the vines were bisecting the chain link wires which were bisecting the ripples. Every line was being cut, or, was every line being connected? Connected or separated? I wasn’t sure and it put me in mind of the quote by Simone Weil: “Every separation is a link.”

I gave a talk on that quote once and I’d have to do some hard remembering to tell you what I said in my talk. It seems like a lifetime ago. But the gist of it is, if you feel far away from God, maybe your separation can be a link to God. For God himself was separated from God, in the person of Christ on the cross. Maybe separation from God is inextricable from knowing God — is in fact a means by which to know God. Maybe, in fact, separation from God is *the only* means by which we may know God. Not sure about that. But watching those ripples making their way through, behind, and across the chain link fence, I caught the merest hint of how I want to feel. A little joy-portal opened up somewhere, then slammed shut. But when it was open I remembered to thank God for the sun, which had turned a deep glowing orange, and was turning everything its same color.

January 9th

I think about what I want to do.

Think about what I want to have done.

The sun is shining on a white lattice.

It’s crisp and cold outside and I want to feel it on my cheek and

I want to feel vital, strong, new, different, onto something, on a roll, in the know
In the clear,

past it.

Desirable and desired.

Inside it’s dark hot and close.

There is a train inside me dark and cold.

I need some coal and a coalman to shovel the coal where the coal goes.

I need a lot of things.

Stoke my cold locomotive.

Well first I got to get to a bigger window.

I can barely see the light.

———————-

“It’s the elephant in the room,” we say, as if an elephant would quietly sit
Or lie
On the floor
Quiet as a mouse, muscles tensed hoping not to be noticed, talked about
or pointed out.

Or as if the elephant were a
wallflower at the school dance, shyly sitting on a folding chair sipping punch,
yearning to chat with the prettiest girl or
Slow-dance with
The cocky prom king.

If the elephant in the room is an elephant

He’s ancient, strong, proud, regal.

He doesn’t care for your room nor mine, nor does he regard them.

Mind you, he’s not rude nor does he wish you ill, but he doesn’t belong in our rooms.
HHe will bust out, leaving an elephantine hole in the wall
If he leaves a wall at all.

Elephants are social. The elephant in the room wants to find his friends and family he wants to make a loud noise, i mean he has an actual deafening musical instrument for a nose which is also an extra hand for grasping things, maybe a candy from a dish on your table or an interesting tchotcke from your shelf, which he’ll stick in his pouch. Oh, wait that’s a kangaroo. What do I look like, a zoologist?

He’ll grab it on the way. On his way

out of the room.

Leaving us without a metaphor.

January 8th

I think I might make this blog all about the pain in my feet. Just foot-complainin’. That’d be real good. Or I could branch out into other kinds of complainin’. My feet are tore up for real though. I need to stop walking so much.

The weather’s turning nice. It’s a bad time to have to be off my feet, but I think I’m going to have to find other means of exercise like biking or swimming or rowing.

Ahh that’s some premium foot-complainin’.

A dark night of the sole.

Thanks, I’ll be here all night, don’t forget to tip your waitperson.

Today I made a spinach casserole and tomato soup which was just campbells with diced tomatoes and chicken stock. I’m enjoying cooking though. I made a really good split pea soup awhile back.

I’m so tired. Today’s writing is of the sort where I really think it’d be better to say nothing at all. Hm, but I made myself that challenge to write every day and it’d be bad to miss a day only 7 days in.

I just thought that I should say something I’m thankful for and it’s this: I’m so excited to go to bed early (10 ish) and wake up early and to have a very productive day tomorrow. I think I will do my writing earlier in the day tomorrow. And make a list and a schedule and be a whirlwind of productivity.

January 7th.

I slept late today after spending yesterday at church and then driving Uber until late at night. I was pretty spent. That’s perhaps the problem with Uber. It takes me a day to recover. It felt good to sleep late, drink coffee and then go for a long walk. A long walk on the muddy golf course. It’s been a rainy winter. All my shoes are filthy and caked with mud. I haven’t been running lately, though I love to run, because my feet have been giving me more problems than normal. Tendonitis and just general pain. But I have been walking. I listened to a Rachel Maddow podcast about Spiro Agnew. Something about the 70s history and 70s culture in general that scratches an itch in my unconscious (unconsciousness? I don’t know which is correct.) I love 70s muscle cars, 70s cop shows, 70s movies, books, news reports. So I’m a sucker for Watergate-era documentaries and stories. The BBC did a great Watergate documentary that is (or was) on youtube. I think I like the 70s era because it was the twilight of my consciousness and of course there’s some nostalgia there and the 70s stuff helps me return and remember that era, which was a good era. I was happy then; I lacked nothing. Of course I like it.

Tonight I ate dinner with my parents and watched some football with my dad. He loves football. Whichever gene it is that makes people like football was not passed to me. So I rarely watch football, but tonight I did. I watched the pregame show with some troops marching and a bomber flying overhead and a giant flag unfurled and a guy I hadn’t heard of singing the anthem, with extra cloying melisma. I still love the USA and will probably always be someone who stands for the anthem with my hand over my heart. I remember being 4 years old in 1976 and turning to the flag and pledging allegiance with Gerald Ford looking on approvingly from a portrait on the wall. It was what I was taught should be done and it’s what I still do. I guess there is a quasi-religious element in there which should make me uncomfortable. I mean, an allegiance to a flag? Hm.

At the same time that I am patriotic I am skeptical of the reflexive and over-weening patriotism I see in certain quarters. I’m over it. The stupid kneeling debate. The ubiquitous flag-pin on the lapels of politicians. I swear I’ll vote for the re-animated corpse of Karl Marx himself if he promises not to wear a flag pin. That’s something I’d be afraid to say on FB because some of my conservative friends and/or fans would take it the wrong way, *or* it would start a stupid argument in the comments section. Man I do not miss moderating arguments in the facebook section of Facebook. That sounds like Hell. Oh also the US is the world’s largest arms dealer by a large margin. That ought to make every American a tiny bit uncomfortable. Or, a lot uncomfortable. Every anthem-singing is invariably accompanied by some military display. I’ll still stand for the anthem, but I will never second-guess the choice of anyone not to.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my parents. I wonder if perhaps this is unnatural or something I should resist. I do resist a little. but Meh. I don’t care. I like them, they like me and I am blessed to have them. And I won’t have them forever. I won’t be here forever either for that matter. For now I am here and I want to hang out with my family.

I needed a break. I needed a break from not being around family so now I am quite around family, and that is A OK. Nothing wrong with that.